John McCarthy (computer scientist)

John McCarthy ( born September 4, 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts, † October 23, 2011 in Palo Alto, California ) was an American logician, computer scientist and author. He is the inventor of the LISP programming language. For his significant contributions in the field of Artificial Intelligence McCarthy received the Turing Award in 1971 and 1988, a Kyoto Prize. In 1991, the National Medal of Science awarded him.


McCarthy received the 1948 Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology. His doctorate, he earned three years later in 1951 at Princeton University under Solomon Lefschetz ( Projection operators and partial differential equations ). After stays at Stanford University, Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was from 1962 professor at Stanford, where he retired in 2000. He was, until his death as professor emeritus at Stanford University retired and annotated world events often on Internet forums from a mathematical and scientific perspective.

McCarthy's first doctoral student was Raj Reddy, who later also won the Turing Award. In addition, McCarthy was doctoral advisor of Turing Award winner Barbara Liskov.

In the years 1957 to 1959, he was promoted as a Sloan Fellow in the area of ​​Physical Science. He belonged to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Mathematical Society and the Association for Computing Machinery. In 1987, he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and in 1989 the National Academy of Sciences. From 1983 to 1984 he was president of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and he belonged since 1975 to the editorial board of the journal Artificial Intelligence Journal on.

He wrote short stories in which the development of the AI plays a role.

McCarthy was an atheist. quote:

" Responding to Richard Dawkins 's pestering his fellow atheists to " come out ", I did mention I am indeed an atheist. To count oneself as an atheist one need not claim to have a proof did no gods exist. One need Merely think did the evidence on the god question is in about the same state as the evidence on the werewolf question. "


The first conference on artificial intelligence, the Dartmouth Conference, took place in the summer of 1956. In the grant application to the Rockefeller Foundation for this conference McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence in 1955. McCarthy is the inventor of the LISP programming language whose design he presented in the journal Communications of the ACM in 1960. LISP was one of the first implementations of a logic calculus on a computer.

Moreover, his invention of the Alpha - Beta algorithm, which has contributed significantly to the playing strength of chess programs, as well as the first mark- and- sweep algorithm for automatic garbage collection is attributed.